Does Gum Disease Affect my Overall Health

Q: Does Gum Disease affect my overall health?
A: Current literature suggests a strong relationship between gum disease or periodontal disease and overall health. There are relationships between gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy outcomes, kidney function, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Periodontal disease is a chronic infection inside the gums. The disease has a hereditary component but is also contageous. The hereditary component is immune mediated and is a shortfall of certain functions of the immune system. This allows bacteria to infiltrate this delicate area and slowly breaks down the tissues that connect your tooth to your mouth. The contageous component shows up in families or couples. The exchange of the virulent bacteria through utensils and personal contact will inocculate those closest to you and potentiate the process of developing periodontal disease.
The following diagram shows the progression of the disease from healthy gums and tissues through advanced periodontal disease.  It was taken from an ADA pamphlet published about Periodontal disease. 

The scientific research indicates that patients with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have a heart disease. The internal cells of the blood vessels become disfunctional in the presence of chronic inflammation.  Periodontal disease is a form of chronic inflammation which therefore leads to disfunction of these cells in the blood vessels and the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  Atherosclerosis is a risk factor for coronary artery and cardiovascular disease. 
Patients with diabetes are at higher risk for developing periodontal disease.  Their immune system is less able to handle the chronic inflammation and therefore their tissues are more succeptible to this disease.  With good oral hygiene and regular check-ups there is no additional risk, however when proper oral hygiene protocol and regular check-ups are not maintained, the risk of developing periodontal disease increases significantly.  This maintenance can help patients with diabetes to better maintain their blood sugar levels as well.
There are higher risks of lower birth weight and pre-term birth in patients with periodontal disease.  There is a documented relationship between the periodontal status of an expectant mother and her newborn baby’s weight as well as the incidence of premature birth.  This simply means that if you are expecting, it’s important to maintain your oral hygiene for the health of your child.  Regular check-ups and good oral hygiene will help to reduce this risk.
It is clear that kidney function and Alzheimer’s disease are both related to periodontal disease, however the link is still being studied.  The link is particularly noticeable in patients with impaired kidney function or if they are on dialysis.
Another relationship to realize is that each of these diseases can have a multiplier effect on your risk of developing the other.  For example, a patient with uncontrolled diabetes and rampant periodontal disease will be at much higher risk of having heart disease.
Most Physicians are not trained to recognize the signs of periodontal disease, recognizing the diseases associated with periodontal disease can be an important method of screening patients who are at risk for periodontal disease.  If your Physician diagnoses you with one of these other diseases it would be beneficial to schedule a periodontal screening with Chips Dental Associates.  The staff at Chips Dental Associates are highly trained at recognizing the signs of periodontal disease and can help you to maintain your oral and overall health.
Brought to you as a community service by Chips Dental Associates, LLC.
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